Friday 11 March 2022

This Meddlesome Human Rights Commissioner.

Who Asked You? Hunt’s visit to the protesters illegal encampment sent a message to the rest of New Zealand that was as unfortunate as it was untrue. Having spurned the social obligation to be vaccinated in the midst of a global pandemic, the protesters’ demands: that the defences  erected by the government to protect their fellow citizens from the consequences of their anti-social behaviour must be abandoned; “should be acknowledged and heard”.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST SURPRISES of the recent anti-vaccination protest/riot was the visit of the Chief Human Rights Commissioner. The presence of Paul Hunt, in the midst of an unlawful protest, condemned by the Speaker of the House, and which the leaders of all parties had agreed to keep at arm’s length, was jarring – to say the least.

I found myself reaching back into medieval history for a precedent. Hunt, it seemed to me, was venturing into the same dangerous territory as Thomas Becket (1118-1170) the Archbishop of Canterbury who challenged the prerogatives of King Henry II – and paid for it with his life.

It’s possible Hunt has already apprehended how badly his decision to go among the protesters has been received in certain quarters. Why else would he have risked compounding his political sins by penning an opinion piece for Stuff? Clearly, he felt he owed someone (the Prime Minister perhaps?) an explanation.

Given that Hunt’s visit was an astonishing slap in the face to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had made it crystal clear what she thought of the reactionary gathering of law-breakers and malcontents on Parliament’s front lawn, his explanation would need to be a very good one.

It isn’t.

While acknowledging that the protesters have been “moved on” from their illegal encampment on Parliament Grounds (without, it must be said, a word of condemnation of their appalling conduct towards the Police as that process unfolded) Hunt still felt obligated to give heed to “the messages they conveyed”. In particular, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner believed that “those adversely affected by the vaccination mandates and passes (or “certificates”) should be acknowledged and heard.”

“Adversely affected”. Hunt seems to be suggesting that the vaccination refuseniks had been “adversely affected” in the same way that a farmer is “adversely affected” by a severe snowstorm at the start of the lambing season. But their failure to get vaccinated – and, hence, to fall foul of the vaccination mandates – was not an Act of God, it was an act of their own free will. An act, moreover, which came with well-advertised consequences, of which they were entirely conscious. These anti-vaxxers have not “lost” their jobs. Rather than participate in the nationwide effort to defeat Covid-19, they have given them up.

As Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Hunt knows that our Bill of Rights Act guarantees that citizens cannot be forced to undergo medical treatment against their will. But, he should also know that by exercising this human right those same citizens, having declined to be vaccinated against it, are in no way entitled to put other citizens at risk of contracting a potentially lethal virus.

Hunt’s visit to the protesters illegal encampment sent a message to the rest of New Zealand that was as unfortunate as it was untrue. Having spurned the social obligation to be vaccinated in the midst of a global pandemic, the protesters’ demands: that the defences (vaccination mandates, vaccination certificates) erected by the government to protect their fellow citizens from the consequences of their anti-social behaviour must be abandoned; “should be acknowledged and heard”.

What alternative construction can we put on Hunt’s behaviour, other than human rights in New Zealand are now whatever individuals say they are, and that no acknowledgement of the rights of other citizens is any longer required? What can it mean except that the “public welfare, peace and tranquillity of New Zealand” (to quote the old Parliamentary prayer) now counts for nothing. Certainly, there was bugger-all “peace and tranquillity” on display as the fires raged and the paving stones flew on Wednesday, 2 March 2022.

Hunt, however, is not finished: “When Covid-19 arrived in Aotearoa, the commission devised a human rights and Te Tiriti test to check whether the Government’s initiatives are striking fair and reasonable balances between competing rights.”

Talk about your Thomas Becket moment! This unelected public servant has arrogated unto himself the right to judge the actions of a democratically elected government. In the midst of a global pandemic, he, Paul Hunt, will “check” the state’s actions to determine whether they are “fair and reasonable”. Not only that, but he will deliberately flout the Prime Minister’s rāhui on meeting with representatives of an unlawful protest.

How tempted Jacinda Ardern must be to cry: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!”

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 March 2022.


CXH said...

Really, Jacinda can now made edicts like 'thou must not talk to the feral protestors' and everyone must bow down on obey.

I am not a big fan of Hunt, but him going and listening to the protesters was a good thing.

Chris, it would seem you want diversity in all but viewpoints.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

While I have absolutely no time for the Human Rights Commissioner's views on vaccinations, I do think New Zealand has too few of the checks and balances on government actions. We need to strike a proper balance somewhere – because it is obvious the US has far too many. :)

John Drinnan said...

Hunt and the Human rights Commission are guilty of overreach - like previous commissioners and indeed the government. Possibly he was avoiding the valid allegation that the Commission had been politicised and covering his arse,.Hunt is dangerous and a lead player in attemptdto restrict what people arte allowed to say. But people disagreeing with the Prime minister is. not a crime yet. It's a right that should
be limited to journalists.

Don Franks said...

But we are not still in the Middle Ages, Jacinda Ardern is not,despite some appearances to the contrary, our queen and Tom Paine has written his book. Yes, in the circumstances it was a radical move for the Human Rights Commissioner to recognise the protesters as fellow human beings. If we want to see a pre Middle Ages precedent we might ask what course the carpenter of Nazareth might have taken.

John Hurley said...

"Oh who will rid me of this meddlesome Humanrights Commissioner"

Chris Trotter

Anonymous said...

People (still have) the right to say what goes into their body. There are many reasons for refusal. You would override that right. That's wrong.
However the lawlessness at the protest was the problem.
It's a free world and anyone can talk to protesters. But. we. are. so. intent. on telling each other what to do! It's like a bad marriage. When one partner starts to boss the other around all you get is trouble and discord. People push back.
Paul Hunt did nothing wrong. He went to listen and if Dear Leader had taken her bodyguards and done that on day two perhaps Paul wouldn't have needed to go.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree with you on this one Chris.

People who have broken the law and are in jail still have a right to have their human rights respected.

Even the prisoners who all but destroyed the prison in last years prison riot had the right to be heard.

The mandates were overturned by a judge for police and military.

Drs and teachers are having their case decided now. The govt u turned on kids sports and mandates. I see they have also paused the mandates for govt workers.

I utterly disagree with the anti vaxed crowd and think their ideas are loopy. But given they really believe the loopy stuff about the vaccine, it would be terrifying to feel you had to have it.

I also suggested the anti vax nurses, teachers and Drs be re deployed to jobs where they could use Telehealth platforms. Currently my GP and nurse are using such an approach where they can

sumsuch said...

What do you make of the govt's attack on the children's commissioner? It has pissed them off big time the CC's legitimate attacks on their major point of fighting poverty. We've all been pissed off at their outright hypocrisy on this over the years.

None of the true Left think much of Grant and Jacinda but they are moving closer to the good work. I think they need a talker to prevent the usual back-response to a lot of govt control, as per post the war. They've chemicaled things out, as per Mills and Lprent, too much.

Is there any talker rather than we folk who've been hit too hard over the decades? Yep, I'm suggesting you. The 80s, 90s you. That you was never wrong.

The Barron said...

Or, if we want a mid-70s precedent, the lead singer of Nazareth

greywarbler said...

This speaks of little pinpricks into the body politic happening more frequently until every decision, no matter how necessary, and the case can be put for it, is able to be overturned by someone cuddling up to the populist high priest of angst, the Human Rights Commissioner reacting and supporting the latest popular grievance. Hail Shitstirrer and Nation's Whiteanter who doesn't appear to believe in anything except that some people should never hear the word No, than having the right to erupt in righteous fury. Did Gilbert and Sullivan write an operetta on this or similar theme?

David Stone said...

So no free speech even for the Human Rights Commissioner ! What kind of society are you envisaging these days Chris?

Alan said...

I understand that we live in a democracy. Therefore Paul Hunt has every right to visit the protesters as their democratic rights should also be represented by their elected officials. Ardern our great arrogant leader refuses to meet any person who do not agree with any of her policies. She tries to demean than and claim they do not matter. Unless of course they are a Maori iwi group wanting more taxpayers money to prop them up. The government where acting very childishly not the make any attempt to communicate with the protesters. Even if they where supposedly committing an offence while expressing their views. The Labour Government has also committed many offences to democracy by eroding it under urgency to pass many laws in secrecy under the cover of the Covid response.

R Singers said...

Surely Chris you can see the irony.